Part 2: The True State Of The Qur'an

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‘The Qur’an Was Revealed In Seven Forms (Ahruf)’

 Part of the history of the Qur’an is perceived to be that "the Qur’an was revealed in  Seven Forms". The Ahadith bear testimony to Companions striving with one another at the mosque, and dragging one another to Muhammad after hearing somebody else reciting the Qur’an in a different way than what Muhammad taught them. (see Sahih Muslim, #1782-1790, Vol ii, p.389). In the words of Von Denffer

"The Seven Modes
 The hadith reports tell us that the Qur’an was actually revealed in seven modes (al-ahraf al-sab’a). This has been narrated by more than ten of the prophet’s Companions, among them Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn ‘Abbas and others. {footnote 41}
 The following is the hadith of Bukhari:
 ‘Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas: Allah’s apostle said: Gabriel recited the Qur’an to me in one way. Then I requested him (to read it in another way), and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways’. {footnote 42}
 On another occasion, ‘Umar complained to the Prophet that Hisham had recited Sura al-furqan in a way different from what ‘Umar had heard from the Prophet, but the Prophet said: ‘...this Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite whichever is easier for you’. {footnote 43}
 Salman is reported to have said that he read a passage from 5:82 in the presence of the Prophet in the following two versions, the first of which is now in the Qur’anic text, while the second constitutes a variant reading according to ‘Ubay b. Ka’b: {footnote 44}" (p.114f, Ulum)
[The footnotes as just noted state; #41 (Itqan, p. 41); #42 (Bukhari, VI, No. 513); #43 (Bukhari, VI, No. 514); #44 (Ibn Abi Dawud, p. 129); #45 (Ulum..., p. 103)]

 From even this single example we see that the ‘7 Forms’ are admitted to have involved different consonants, such as the ‘q’ and the ‘s’ which are based upon different consonantal symbols in the written form. Thus any early written texts recording such ‘7 Forms’ were obviously different. 

Does Islam ‘Know’ Exactly What The ‘7 Forms’ Contained?

 Yet, the issue of what the ‘7 Forms’ contained is not straightforward. For, while such admissions are made, elsewhere Von Denffer admits that 

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"Only a few examples for ‘ahruf’ have been transmitted to us.", which indicates a lack of evidence. However, in Von Denffer’s next section, he declares that early Islamic scholars did not know what the ‘7 Forms’ specifically contained, and the problem was not insufficient examples! Rather, the body of evidence provided scholars with the dilemma that there were examples alluding to the existence of a multitude of ‘Forms’, not just ‘7’: 

"Scholars Differ
 There is a difference of opinion among classical Muslim scholars on the subject of the ‘seven modes’, to the extent that one of them was able to say: ‘the degree of difference of opinion (iktilaf) among the scholars is to the extent of 35 sayings’. {footnote 46}
 Some of these different opinions are that the ‘seven modes’ are:
- Different languages (dialects) current among the Arabs at the time of revelation, such as e.g. Qura’sh, Hudhayl, Tamin, etc., who had different ways of pronunciation, which could even affect the spelling, e.g.

- It may also be the usage of words from the different languages in the Qur’an (this is considered one of the most sound views).
- Usage of synonyms in the Qur’an, i.e. that a variety of expressions describe one and the same concept. A well known example is Sura 101:5, which reads as   , but on another version  both meaning ‘like carded wool’. The word  read in place of (Sura 1:6), etc. {footnote 48}
- Different aspects of the revelation, such as e.g. order, prohibitions, promise, narrations, etc. 
- Seven differences, such as possible ways of reading words and structures in the Qur’an, e.g. the word ‘trusts’ in 23:8 which can be read both ‘trust’ (sg.) or ‘trusts’ (pl.) according to the plain text without vowels; or .
- Slightly different wording of a particular passage, such as e.g. in 9:100: ‘Gardens under which rivers flow’ which some read as ‘Gardens from under which rivers flow’ adding the word ‘from’ (min) to the text.
- Different ways of pronunciation as they have been explained in great detail by the scholars of qira’a (recitation) such as e.g.  , etc. {footnote 49}". (Ulum, p. 115f; emphasis added)

 It is plain not only that the scholars were aware that there was no actual record of what the ‘7 Forms’ were, but that there was so much ‘evidence’, that the greatest early (classical) Islamic scholars did not find evidence for just ‘7 Forms’, but for so many ‘types’ (‘35 sayings’) that they found themselves unable to conclude what the content of the ‘7 Forms’ was! As we will see, it was either accept everything as ‘possibly’ 

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 of the 7 Forms’, or else admit that the ‘7 Forms’ were LOST!!

  Von Denffer’s final effort to define the ‘7 Forms’ is less than specific: 

From these different opinions, of which only some have been listed above, by way of illustration, a generally-accepted conclusion is that the ‘seven modes’ are the basis of several distinct ways of reciting the Qur’an, reflecting the different usage at the time of revelation, comprising variations in pronunciation and even minor differences in wording." (p.115, 117 ibid.)

Nothing could be vaguer. Certainly those who claim to have a knowledge of ‘the original exact words’ in Arabic are deceived. 

Strangely, one follower of Islam recently argued that the ‘35 opinions’ were, after all, only the ‘opinions’ of scholars, and not to be trusted! The truth is that Islam has nothing except the statements of its great scholars on such matters. It is they who have expended their efforts to transmit the facts about the true condition of the Qur’an. His declaration that today the ‘7 Forms’ can be found recorded in volumes declares either that all these early scholars were grossly ignorant, or, that this man (or the ‘creators’ of his volumes) was deceived/lying. 

Why Have The ‘7 Ahruf’ Become ‘Unknown’?

But, what brought Islam to this point of confusion? The reasons are tied up with the proliferation of ‘readings’ which occurred in the generations following the death of Muhammad. The statements on this matter indicate clearly that while certain scholars later tried to check this by selecting several readings to represent ‘the Qur’an’, and sought to prohibit the use of others, in fact there was also a mindfulness among the scholars that what the people were transmitting as ‘readings’ were NOT the ‘7 Ahruf’! The following citation shows this clearly: 

"Part V 
The Order of the Qur’an’s Revelation and the Growth of the Qur’anic Sciences 
The majority of Scholars recognize the seven types of recitation as mutawatir, that is, as having been related in unbroken chains of transmissions. One group of narrators have equated the tradition that the Qur’an was revealed in seven harf (literally, "word" in Arabic) with the seven different recitations; this tradition is well known amongst Muslim scholars in general but is not recognised as being trustworthy. 
Al-Zarkshi [sic - al-Zarkashi] says in his book al-Burhan, "It is true that these seven recitations from the seven reciters have come to us via unbroken chain of transmission but their chain of transmission from 

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the Prophet are open to inspection, since the chains of transmission of the seven reciters are all of the type of single transmission, that is, related by one single man to another single man."
"Al-Makki says in his book, "Anyone who imagines that the recitation of such men as Nafi and 'Asim are the same seven 'harf mentioned in the saying of the Prophet is committing a grave mistake." Moreover, the implication of this saying is that recitations, other than these seven, are not correct; this also is a grave mistake since early Islamic Scholars like Abu 'Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Salam and Abu Hatim al-Sijistani, Abu Ja'far al-Tabari and Isma'il al-Qadi have recorded several other recitations besides these seven. 
At the beginning of the second century A.H. the people of Basra used the recitation of Abu ‘Amr and Ya’qub and in Kufa the recitations of Hamzah and ‘Asim. In Sham they used that of Ibn ‘Amir and in Mecca that of Ibn Kathir. In Medina that of Nafi’ was used. This situation remained unchanged until the beginning of the third century A.H. when Ibn Mujahid removed the name of Ya’qub and put the name of al-Kisa’i in his place. 
The reason why scholars paid so much attention to the seven reciters, despite there being many others of equal or better standing, was that the number of recitations had multiplied so cluickly (sic) that they lost interest in learning and recording all the traditions about recitation. Thus they decided to choose several of the recitations which complied with the orthography of the Qur'an and which were easier to learn and record. 
Thus for the five copies of the Qur’an which ‘Uthman had sent to the towns of Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra and Sham, five reciters were chosen from the five areas and their recitations were then used. Ibn Jubayr writes about these five recitations from the five forms. Ibn Mujahid records a tradition which asserts that ‘Uthman sent two other copies to Yemen and Bahrain, that the number of ‘Uthman copies thus numbered seven and that they chose seven narrators. 
Since precise information about this tradition (which states that copies were sent to Yemen and Bahrain) was not available, they added two of the reciters of Kufa, to make up the number they had previously chosen, to seven. This number, which corresponds with the above-mentioned saying and affirmed that the Qur’an was revealed in seven recitations, was then used by others who had no knowledge of the matter. They mistakenly supposed that what was meant by the seven harf which the Prophet spoke of, was the seven recitations. The only trustworthy recitations are those whose text is sound and whose meaning corresponds to what is written in the Qur’an. 
Al-Qurab says in his al-Shefi, "We should look for the seven recitations amongst the qurra’ not from among others." This view is neither tradition nor sunnah but rather it originated from some of the later Scholars who collected the seven recitations. These seven recitations became so well known that people imagined that other recitations should not be used. This however,

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has never been claimed."
(The Qur’an in Islam Its Impact and Influence on the Life of Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Published by: Zahra Publications P.O. Box 730, Blanco, Tx. 78606, U.S.A: cited from ; bold added)

This makes everything about the ‘7 readings’ of the Qur’an ‘questionable’ in relation to what is asserted was the ‘original Qur’an’, the ‘7 Ahruf’. 

It is obvious that a dizzying ‘expansion’ of recitations with no particular attention to retaining the ‘7 Ahruf’ forced the later scholars of Islam to clamp down on the ‘readings’. But, further to this was the acknowledgement among some that there was a need to be looking for some way to ‘link’ the ‘7 readings’ with the ‘7 Ahruf’, even if it was only to say that in some way the ‘7 Ahruf’ should be "looked for" among the ‘7 readings’. 

Returning to Von Denffer, we find there also a summary of this confusion. After a short section on the ‘7 Readers’, he concludes his chapter with a summary on the ‘7 Readings’ from ibn al-Jazari which agrees with the stand of others that the ‘7 Ahruf’ should be "looked for " in a far broader number of readings: 

"The best summary on this topic is perhaps contained in the words of the scholar Abu-l-Khair bin al-Jazari (d. 833/1429), who wrote:
"Every reading in accordance with Arabic (grammar), even if (only) in some way, and in accordance with one of the masahif of Uthman, even if only probable , and with sound chain of transmission, is a correct (sahih) reading which must not be rejected, and may not be denied, but it belongs to the seven modes (ahruf) according to which the Qur’an was revealed, and the people are obliged to accept it, no matter whether it is from the seven Imams, or the ten, or from other accepted Imams, but when one of these three conditions is not fulfilled, it is to be rejected as weak (da’if) or exceptional (shadh) or void (batil), no matter whether it is from the seven or from one who is older than them." (Von Denffer, Ulum, p. 120f; the footnote reads "Suyuti, Itqan, I, p.75"; emphasis added).

Since the misplaced ‘7 Ahruf’ could not be admitted to be ‘forever lost’, there had to be some assertion that they ‘might still be found’ amongst what was in use, and so all and sundry readings were accepted as the ‘7 Ahruf’!! 

One is left with the image of a religion which while purporting ‘perfect knowledge of the Qur’an’ has in fact fallen to relying solely upon searching amongst debris to scratch for remnants of its Divinely kept ‘Book’. 

The Qur’an is seen to be merely just another Hadith. In fact a great mass of Ahadith, which, while needing to be transmitting an absolute 

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reality of the ‘7 Ahruf’ (what are asserted to be "the exact Words of God"), now is found to transmit ‘35’ versions and no-one is to quibble - because it ‘is’ part of the ‘7 Ahruf’! This Hadith should be rejected!! 

This has to strike fear into the heart of every follower of Islam who is serious about Heaven and Hell

Who Removed ‘6 Forms’ (Ahruf) From Use?

But, Von Denffer also introduces us to a further gap in Islam’s knowledge about the ‘7 Forms’ - the apparent early removal of ‘6 Ahruf’ from use. Exactly how they were removed Islam doesn’t know for certain! Von Denffer raises the topic in the following way: 

"Seven Modes in the Qur’an
While some scholars {footnote 51}hold that the written Qur’an now includes only one of the ‘seven modes’, and others are transmitted orally to us, there is some evidence also for the view that the text of the Qur’an, as we have it in front of us, may include all these ‘seven modes’ because:
- No one would change the Qur’an
- The present text was written upon the basis of the sahaba testimonies, both orally and written, going back directly to the Prophet.
- The Qur’an is protected by Allah." (p.117, ibid.)

In footnote #51, to which Von Denffer points us for the names of scholars who have declared that 6/7ths of the Qur’an are no longer available, he states: 

"e.g. Tabari, Jami’ al-bayan ‘an ta’wil ayat al-qur’an, Cairo, 1968. See introduction to this tafsir. Zarkashi, Vol.1, p.213 says most scholars are of the first view, and that the last double-reading of the Qur’an by Muhammad in the presence of the Angel Gabriel served, among others, the purpose of eliminating the other six modes." (p.117, ibid.)

We note that, while documenting what the early scholars have deduced, Von Denffer’s own religious convictions about the preservation of the Qur’an (i.e. his belief which declares it will never change) have forced him to deny their conclusions and adhere to his own, that "the faith I have been taught says it has to still ALL be here somewhere". 

However, at-Tabari’s opinion must be noted. He believed that ‘Uthman had burnt all but one because the ‘7 ahruf’ were 7 texts

Even on this all-important point of who ‘removed’ the claimed original ‘7 Forms’, being the only readings of the content of what Islam claims is a ‘new Book’, Islamic scholars are divided, having no "certain" historical knowledge about the text of the Qur’an, but "only conjecture to follow". Was it Gabriel, or was it `Uthman some 18 years later? 

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This also shows even more ignorance about the Qur’an’s history for it means that Islamic scholars are divided over what caused the actions of Caliph `Uthman. 

DIAGRAM:  Oral/Written Transmission of Qur'an 


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